Sec. Gina Lopez and the mining industry

 

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

We all know that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Ms. Gina Lopez as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the strength of her intensely passionate and unwavering advocacy for green or eco-friendly environment.

No one can ever question her resolve in protecting the environment and in so doing making it clean and friendly to the people. We have seen her zeal and devotion when she served as chairperson of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and her involvement in Bantay Kalikasan (Nature Watch) which was launched as a response to the worsening state of the environment, especially in Metro Manila.

While many appreciate the idealism of Lopez for the environment, the same morals or philosophy, if you may, when applied to the mining companies in the country should have been tempered with greater understanding and rationality.

I am saying this because Lopez is now at the receiving end of the wrath expressed by some mining officials whose company was targeted for closure and/or suspension of operation for the reason that it has been causing havoc to the environment.

That Lopez has been the subject of displeasure and indignation by the mining companies, which is even affecting her confirmation as DENR secretary, is only fair and par for the course because its mining operation should have been vetted first on the context on whether or not they are International Standards Organization (ISO) compliant.

This should have been the due process extended to the mining companies instead of shutting them down unceremoniously.

There is no doubt Lopez knows about the ISO certification because she herself stated the following upon assuming the position from former DENR Secretary Ramon Paje: “ISO 14001 is one way of saying responsible mining.”

The ISO 14001 standard is the most important within the ISO 14000 series. ISO 14001 specifies the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. An EMS is a systemic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Lopez further added that the assessment will determine if mining operations are “… good to the people or are they killing the rivers, streams? Are they creating suffering to our farmers and fishermen? We have to evaluate it, but my stand on the common good is non-negotiable.”

The “non-negotiable” stand of Lopez can be likened to the shit hitting the fan!

This hardline policy/posturing of Lopez just won’t work especially if the mining industries earn billions of pesos for the country, creates job for the people in the community and contribute to the infrastructure needs of the community.

Personal or subjective opinion should never play a rule in this kind of controversial problems especially if it has to do with the economy, jobs, lives of employed workers, and yes, the environment. The benefits gained should not be held hostage just because the whim and caprice of a popular DENR Secretary is not accommodated.

To compromise is the way to go so it will not create a negative impact on all factors considered for a win-win situation could only be attained if a review of the ISO standards is done regularly by DENR so that anomalies can be corrected to help minimize the potential present and long term damage to the environment from mining activities.

 

Mitigating flooding during heavy rainfall

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Dredging silted rivers may not be the absolute solution for flooding communities across the country every time it rains for days during weather disturbances.

But certainly clearing up and digging up the sediments composed of fine clay and sand, and in some cases stones, rocks, boulders, and other debris in the river, which are deposited by cascading waters from the mountains, will help mitigate the impact of possible overflowing of the river causing flooding and destruction of properties and lives.

We have seen these disastrous events happening for years all over the country, and getting worse, during rainy and typhoon seasons and people have gotten used to it, even accepting it as normal occurrences.

But, could displacement and destruction of lives and properties brought about by a long and seemingly incessant downpour continue to be that – normal occurrences?

We can only be thankful that during these trying times we have concerned government officials in the persons of Agricultural Secretary Manny Piñol and President Rodrigo Duterte who have shown determination and resolve to do something, at least, to one main contributory factor to flooding and that is the dredging of the major rivers across the country.

Upon the recommendation of Piñol, the president has reportedly approved the dredging of the following major rivers:

  • Agusan river, considered the third longest river in the country, that drains into the Butuan Bay at its mouth in Butuan City.
  • Rio Grande deMindanao, also known as the Mindanao river and considered the largest river system in the country, begins near Butuan City and empties into the Moro gulf through Cotabato City.
  • Pampanga river traverses the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija until it drains into Manila Bay.
  • Cagayan river, also known as Rio Grande de Cagayan, is the longest and 2nd largest river in the country, flows through the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan until it reaches its mouth at the Babuyan Channel.

Indeed, this is a very welcomed development.

 

Duterte orders total log ban

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It is very encouraging and reassuring to know that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a Tri-Partite Convergence Committee that will formulate guidelines and other details of total log ban implementation in the country.

Knowing who Duterte is and his earnest concern for the country and the Filipino people it should be relieving to all that the government’s log ban policy will be forcefully and finally implemented for good.

I am saying this because it is not that the policy of a total log ban has not been mulled over and studied in the past by past administrations. The long and short of it is because past presidents and past Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials just did not have the backbone to implement it vigorously.

Proofs to this are the pieces I wrote in 2012 and 2013 which can be read at these links:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/illegal-loggers/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/logging-ban/.

Reportedly, the committee will be composed of the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

What adds to the favorable action of Duterte is the presence of two supportive and dependable Cabinet stalwarts, namely, DA Secretary Manny Piñol and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez.

In fact what prompted Duterte to issue the directive for the formation of the committee is the apprehension raised by Piñol, during the Climate Change Commission (CCC) En Banc and Advisory Board Meeting in Malacañang, about the massive floods in various river basins in Mindanao due to denuded mountains.

In the same venue Lopez told Duterte that despite the total log ban, several companies were given licenses to cut down trees under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) and the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) contracts.

With Duterte’s order to stop all logging operations with no exemptions we can expect the greening of the mountains again and the mitigation of landslides and flash floods.

But this will take time for so much destruction has been done to the nation’s water sheds. In the meantime the agencies tasked to implement the order should continually be in the look- out for the unscrupulous loggers.

Cruelty of sun bears at the Bandung zoo

 

sunbears_230117_stI do not know if you have read about or seen already the woeful condition and the pathetic sight of the sun bears found inside the Bandung zoo in Indonesia’s West Java province.

Am sure there are more miserable looking animals inside but the sun bear is singled out here in this video and link of an article that I am sharing perhaps because of its rarity.

The sun bear, which is considered the smallest of the bears, can only be found in tropical forest habitats of Southeast Asia, and has been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because of its depleted suitable habitat caused by deforestation.

While it is bad that they are kept in the zoo for public display, it is even worse for their kind because they cannot do what they are suppose to do if they were in the wild, what with their long tongue 20–25 cm (7.9–9.8 in) to extract insects and honey and with their large paws and large sickle-shaped claws, which is believe to be an adaptation for climbing trees.

This video that I am sharing, which was taken by Indonesia-based Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group, only shows how inadequate the funding perhaps to make the animals healthy and the facility to remain sustainable.

But what is even worse perhaps is the lack of trained personnel to run the zoo.

What a pitiable sight indeed.

For more on the subject you can also visit this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/skeletal-sun-bears-indonesia-zoo_us_58819d50e4b0e3a735684c7f.

More fun at Runway 32

 

You might be wondering what the heck is Runway 32 and where exactly is it found?

Well, Runway 32 is simply what it is, a 5334 ft long airstrip located in Barangay Dahican in Mati, the capital city of the province of Davao Oriental in the Philippines. It is the only airport in Davao Oriental.

Interestingly, during the heydays of the Marcos regime, this was famously called the Imelda R. Marcos Airport, perhaps due to the impulsive whim and scandalous vagary of the former iron lady who had things done, whether it will serve its purpose or not for as long as the project is named after her.

The airstrip with its lone, now worn out terminal building fronting a tarmac for plane parking, loading, unloading, boarding and deplaning was never really fully utilized for commercial purposes as domestic flights are available to and from Davao City.

Needless to say Imelda’s project never took off in Mati.

However, what is successfully taking off at the moment and helping make Mati City soar high up in the air again, as far as tourism is concern, is the ingenious idea of some Davao folks who founded the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) for recreational purposes while suitably utilizing Runway 32 for what it was constructed for and for riders to enjoy the scenic beauty of the city and its surroundings like no one has seen before in exhilarating and breathtaking open cockpit ultra light planes and the like, especially when talking about the Sleeping Dinosaur Island, resort places and the famous Dahikan Beach with its 17-kilometer pure, fine white sand shore.

A must see in Mati is also the city’s Subangan Museum, where it showcases a great mixture of rich cultural and natural heritage thru its displays. It also houses the fossil of a 50-foot long sperm whale that was found by fishermen in 2010.

But the reason really why I am writing about this piece is because I simply want to share with you the experience and fun me we all had at MSFC. I was with my wife, Paz, our daughter Angie, with her husband Rodin and daughters Amaya and Mayumi. Yumi, who is just 6 years old, had the guts to fly with her Tito King, while older sister Amaya was just contented taxiing on the airstrip.

Iñaki (T. King) incidentally is the one managing MSFC. Next year, he says, MSFC will not only be a recreational club but will be a licensed flying school at the same time for small aircrafts.

(For more of MSFC you can go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/MindanaoSagaFlyingClub/photos/)

Enjoy the photos.

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No euphoria in the favorable decision of China-Philippines arbitration

 

south china sea“The award is a complete and total victory for the Philippines … a victory for international law and international relations,” said Paul Reichler, lead lawyer for the Philippines.

The lawyer is of course talking about the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)  in The Hague favoring the Philippines in the case it filed against China ruling that the latter has no historic title over the South China Sea, even as it claims rights to the resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line, and that it has in fact breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by disallowing its people to fish and the government to conduct oil and gas exploration.

But is it really and truly a victory for the Philippines or is it just a landmark decision for the world to know and appreciate the legality of it?

How could Filipinos be euphoric of the victory when China has been defiant all along calling the case a farce, thus, boycotting the hearings at the PCA, and now rejecting the ruling, saying, that its people had more than 2,000 years of history in the South China Sea so that sovereignty and maritime interests belong to them and must be militarily defended accordingly?

How could Filipinos be euphoric of the PCA’s favorable decision when nothing will change and the ominous presence of the artificial islands furiously built in record time with military facility flying the China flag will continue to prevail?

Let us not talk anymore about the huge damage inflicted on the ecosystem under the sea when China turned the reefs into islands, for if the international community led by the U.S. has not been able to prevent them from claiming 90 % of the South China Sea with their nine-dash line policy, who are we to drive them out, much less defy?

Surely the decision did not sit well with China as the arbitral court has made them appear as a bully not only to the Philippines but to the other claimant-nation in the region as well, and so what are we to expect next from this piqued giant nation?

Or to put it in another context, what are we to do with China?

Our options, I would like to think, is simply to face realities.

The reality that the U.S. has no other interest in the area but to make sure that the freedom of navigation will continue to be respected by China.

The reality that China has established itself already in the area for better or worse and nothing can be done about it now but to be respected by all nations.

The reality that it is advantageous for the country to continue talking with the devil we know, the Americans, who has been our friend and ally for a long, long time.

The reality that it also imperative that we have to talk with the devil we least know, the Chinese, who we find now too close for comfort at our backyard, for whatever concessions we can get to help the lives of our fisher folks in areas concerned and the safety of our OFWs in China, in particular, and for the country, in general, in terms of having its exclusive economic zone guaranteed and respected as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the country’s exploitation of marine resources.

The reality that the country is weak, helpless and hapless against China, but will never be intimidated as to give up our sovereignty for what is legally ours, thus, the Philippines need the assistance, military or otherwise, of other nations willing to help like Japan and Australia.

It is interesting to know, and the world is watching us, how the Duterte administration is going to resolve this contentious issue of territorial dispute with a win-win result.

For all intents and purposes the PAC awarding the Philippines a favorable decision does not call for euphoric feeling.

More than a victory it is a landmark decision for the world’s consumption.

Hopefully such landmark decision will not turn into a flashpoint. (https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/militarization-the-south-china-sea/).

 

Lopez on renewable fuels and the Marcoses

 

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez

Lopez is of course the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez, a known environmentalist and a staunch critic of the use of fossil fuels like coal as energy sources for the country’s power plants.

The secretary, however, advocates strongly the use of renewable fuels or the alternative source of energy which is produced or recovered without the undesirable consequences inherent in fossil fuels with high carbon dioxide emissions (greenhouse gas).

We all know that the use of the fossil fuels like coal is being blamed the main culprit for global warming which in turn has produced unpredictable and destructive weather conditions all over the world today.

In effect what Lopez is actually advocating is something that is environmentally friendly or green, a buzzword popularly used today when referring to what the eco-system needs.

Basically going green means to live life, as an individual or a member of the world community, in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth.

I don’t think that is an issue to be debated as people would really like to live in a world free of natural disturbances.

But is that realistic?

Do we have the resources to be producing an alternative source of energy or would it just be better that we continue using coal for energy production at the people while giving employment to the people.

I could not agree more with Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi when he said “we cannot just discount coal” in reaction to Lopez’s abhorrence of fossil fuel.

The country is not ready yet to embark on this costly shift anytime soon, but it does not mean that we will not be preparing the country for that eventuality if only to be saved from a devastating natural catastrophe brought about by climate change as a result of global warming.

Unlike the US and China and the other industrialized countries, the footprints we left on global warming is too small to be described as the ones causing havoc to the environment. But then again it is not an excuse for not considering the shift to green energy

What makes Lopez’s appointment to a Cabinet position in the Duterte administration interesting is her being simply a scion of the moneyed Lopezes whose business empire, run then by the secretary’s grandfather and patriarch, Eugenio Lopez Sr., of which the giant ABS-CBN is one, was taken away by Marcos and his cronies and her father incarcerated for five years.

Ironically, the Marcoses are good friends of Duterte and the DENR secretary could not just stomach them, much less accept them, and so it remains to be seen whether Lopez will hold on to her job if and when Duterte will open a position for Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr in his administration.

“They put my dad in jail for five years, they took our businesses away. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with the Marcoses. I love my dad. That’s how I feel,” she said.

Talking about a balancing act that Duterte will be making in the near future.